Movie #93 2021: Roald Dahl’s The Witches (2020)

Meeeeeeeh another remake. Let’s all do a group groan. Sometimes though, reboots can be surprisingly decent, so let’s see how this one panned out.

Roald Dahl’s The Witches is yet another reimagining of the original Roald Dahl book of the same name. You may recall that last year, I reviewed the 1990 Nicolas Roeg version (click here to read it), and was pleasantly entertained by it. Similarly to the 30 year old movie, this film (directed by Robert Zemeckis) follows pretty much the same storyline, except the ending stays more faithful to the novel this time round. In short, it’s the story of a young boy who crosses the path of a group of evil witches who turn him into a mouse.

Why it gotta be American though? It’s strange, as the original movie had so much mystery and pizzazz about it, and it just feels as though Zemeckis came into this project with the intent to Americanise the whole thing for no reason at all. Roald Dahl was English, and his book was set mostly in England, so why bother? Meh.

Furthermore, everything about this adaptation is simply way too glossy. Part of the charm in the 1990 movie was its low budget facade and terrifying (real) make up, but this sadly suffered due to the Hollywoodisation of it all. And the CGI? Did they have to? It’s horrendously bad and not even necessary. Though I’ll admit that Anne Hathaway does a cracking job of being toe-curlingly scary, the CGI will force you to remember that it’s not real at all because it looks so haphazard and fake. Another meh.

What I will say is that Octavia Spencer plays the role of Grandma so perfectly with her warmth and maternal advice, even though she’s worlds apart from the original Norwegian Grandmother in the previous movie. Again, Hathaway nails the Grand High Witch (minus whatever the fuck that accent is supposed to be), but I can’t say she surpasses Anjelica Huston because… that’s impossible. She’s the Queen of all things, after all.

It also feels as though Zemeckis et al just tried to include too much of Roald Dahl’s original novel in order to make up for the fact that they completely changed the setting and the origins of the characters. I didn’t need so much background story, what I needed was better pacing. If you’re going to watch this with kids, you might as well skip to 30 minutes in because no child is paying attention until the witches finally make a proper appearance. The second half is certainly more entertaining and fun, but does lack character and heart.

Since there were some mildly humorous parts, two pretty great leading performances, and a bunch of killer popular music choices… it has earned 2 Qs from me only.

Roald Dahl’s The Witches is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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